In this special column called the “TLC x Fempreneurs Series”, we will be featuring inspiring Female Entrepreneurs (Fempreneurs) in short. You will be able to have a sneak peek at their mindsets and their daily habits.
Believe in the power of community. On some days when you feel big goals are impossible, or when you feel like giving up, you need to lean on your like-minded community. You can even “borrow” motivation, and in turn “return” with your own inspiring stories to pay it forward.
Meet Maiko Makito (Pearl FALCO)
Tell us a little about yourself.
Since its conception, Pearl FALCO has prided itself as the leader in creating pearl jewellery pieces with the utmost love and attention to detail so it can be passed onto future generations. At the core of our business, we have always aimed to showcase the beauty of cultured pearls and how these living gems transcend the true expression of self-adornment.
What got you started on your business?
Prior to Pearl FALCO, I joined NEC after my graduation with the opportunity to explore working in developing countries and build upon my self reliance. In NEC, I undertook projects to build up communication infrastructures in Asia. Since young, I have always harboured dreams to contribute to the community who I can help through different contributions. After resigning from NEC, my passion for contributing to society lived on and I initiated programs like “Pearl of Hope ” that helps underserved children gain access to education.
In 2016, I resigned from my corporate job and took over the reins of Pearl FALCO from my father at a time when I was also simultaneously building a family and adapting to motherhood here in Singapore. I was motivated by my passion for my culture and the beauty of pearls that I wished to share with the world.
Shortly after, in 2018, after multiple roadshows and sustained awe of the brilliance of pearls, I conceptualized an annual Pearl Jewellery competition, “The Grand Prix of Akoya Pearl Jewellery Ise Shima”. This is an annual affair with hopes to raise awareness of the importance and versatility of pearls by focusing on themes that bind. Here in Singapore, I have also organized Pearl Appreciation Workshops in jewellery schools like NAFA, Raffles Design and JDMIS and also hosted private seminars both online and in person.
Before you started on your business, what did you do on a full-time basis?
Before helming Pearl FALCO, I majored in Economics at Keio University in Japan. After I graduated, I kicked off my career in the sales and marketing department at NEC Corporation in Japan, and in 2005 I was transferred to NEC Asia-Pacific and eventually became the Business Development Manager of IT Telephony System in South East Asia.
I then resigned from NEC in 2016 and immediately joined my family business Pearl FALCO and took over the management of Pearl FALCO Japan from Singapore and also challenged myself to pay my attention and efforts to my growing children and new home.
What were some difficulties you faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
Despite having dreams of wanting to work in Asia since my student days, it was in fact my first time living outside of Japan when I first joined NEC. Aligning myself with another culture while also clinging to my roots was initially hard as I had so much to learn. With patience and resilience, I overcame this difficulty and welcome learning new things even today.
After which, channeling equal if not more attention towards building a business while overseeing my responsibilities as a wife and mother were at times strenuous. The industry that I belong to is traditional, handcrafted, and cultural which pose different challenges too. To introduce it to another country outside of Japan has been an innovative challenge that I thoroughly enjoy. The business model I previously worked on required major restructuring when COVID-19 hit and I needed to make decisions that were robust and/or radical to break out of the previous headlock we found ourselves in. To bring Ise Shima to the world while being outside of Ise Shima was initially tougher than I expected but my team was very supportive and with technology, we managed to make it work.
There are some days that I doubt my ability to overcome these difficulties but I am adaptable to changes and believe that trying different techniques can bring the result we are hoping for despite the limited resources. Regardless of the speed (or lack of), looking forward and not dwelling on the hypotheticals helps with re-adjusting our focus towards what needs to be done.
Who inspires you?
Nature and people I meet across cultures have always acted as the core of my inspiration in all things I do. In nature, nothing is perfect yet everything perfectly fits to create a symbiotic equilibrium. Same with people, there are so many unique traits and characteristics, and looking into this helps us understand ourselves and the role we play in the beautiful circle of life. Before joining PEARL Falco, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunities to travel and learn about cultural amalgamation from those travels. Being self-reliant, I backpacked across different territories since I was a student and learned so much about communities and culture that I would’ve never been able to. I grew up in a time when technology was not as prevalent as it is today, I had the fortune of being able to feel alive at that moment without having to document it for social media. It was me, the sky, and the people beneath the sky. Interestingly, I was trekking through Eurasia when I decided to join NEC, having been lured by the opportunity to work in developing countries.
What excites you most about your industry?
With many Asians unfamiliar with the value of pearls or having the practice of wearing or gifting pearls, the industry is a close-knit one which focuses on attention and reinventing classics, and keeping the style intact. There is always a story associated with every piece of jewellery as they often constitute heirlooms and the thought that we contribute to keeping some traditions alive is very exciting.
When it comes to the technique of pearl cultivation, I am thrilled by the prospects of making a difference through my ability to educate the masses on how the environment affects pearl cultivation. With global warming, there have been several challenges to the cultivation of Akoya Pearl and currently, it is a rare commodity as the rapid decrease in the number of farmers along with environmental conditions. This resulted in Akoya Pearl production being a tenth of what it was previously. Due to temperature changes, only a small proportion of cultured pearls are suitable for use in Jewellery.
Ise Shima does not only offer pearl cultivation but rather supports harvesting, cleaning, processing, grading, and crafting, all of which are still done immaculately by hand. It is exciting to be a part of a rich tradition of the Japanese pearl industry and bring it outside of Ise Shima to my adopted home, Singapore. I
always believe that people and their connections always create happiness and pearls just help enhance the beauty in people in a very natural and timeless manner and it thrills me that I could be a bridge to facilitate these connections.
What is your vision / personal motto?
Our company name FALCO means Familiar, Love and Confidence which is the founding principle and motto for us. My vision for Pearl FALCO is to create pearl jewellery pieces with the utmost love and attention to detail so they can be passed onto future generations. At Pearl FALCO, it is our vision to pass our knowledge of pearls globally, intricately strewn with the many stories, love, and devotion behind each creation of pearl jewellery.
Do you have any word of advice for other ladies who are starting their business/ starting to pursue their dream?
Regardless of your reservations, know that what you do makes a difference. It might not be a difference at the scale you imagined but even the smallest ripple gives you a better understanding on where you stand and how to overcome plausible challenges. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.
Despite the challenges, it is all worth it when you’re following your passions. Being surrounded by people who have the same convictions as you are always helpful. Thankfully, I worked alongside other passionate individuals who understood that our mission was to bring forward our Japanese tradition and the beauty of the pearl industry to the rest of the world. The treasure of Japan, Akoya Pearls, is one that we wish to share with future generations. The pursuit of this mission requires me to work twice as hard in Singapore as it is my dream to establish a new market for cultured pearls here in Singapore.
How do you think you can help ladies to feel confident and empowered?
I would like to remind women to be comfortable in their skin and to accept who they are and understand the importance of self-love. Self-acceptance goes a long way when it comes to pursuing dreams.
Furthermore, as someone who places high importance on culture and also overcoming language barriers, I am hopeful that I can encourage women that innovation comes from many inspirations. Within themselves, we all have what we need to sustain, nurture and innovate. Believe that the world is your oyster and with patience, it will produce something so exquisite.
What have you learnt recently that you hope the other ladies can take back?
Dare to dream and if you are passionate about something, let nothing prevent you from pursuing your dreams. Nothing can replace the euphoria of passion, so if there is something that is worth fighting for, give it your best.
Personally, I myself am surrounded by an all ladies team who are always working towards the same goal with the same, unwavering gusto. In these trying times, I want my team to keep their spirits up and also behave in a manner that reassures them that tough times don’t last, tough people, do. We have a long road ahead of us but for now, it is important that they know that we will all see our vision come to life soon as we have all worked hard for it.
What I hope is for more ladies to truly embody that and be as supportive to other women’s businesses. A small act of kindness goes a long way.
What is one thing you are grateful for?
My parents, who have brought me up and inculcated my virtues onto me. This helped me to grow into who I am now and harbor the fascination with people and culture. They always encouraged me to be empathetic and use my privilege for the greater good, even allowing me to travel alone crossing the Eurasia continent when I was a student. Now that I myself am a mother, I can understand that despite their worry, they prioritized encouraging me to gain experiences that couldn’t be taught from the safety of home.
My sister and I had a disciplined upbringing that fundamentally molded our mental and emotional capabilities. Both my parents, especially my mother, constantly reminded us to be thoughtful and helpful. Without them, we won’t be able to be who we are now. My sister became a doctor and I took over our family business from Singapore. Both the career paths that we have embarked on are not without difficulties but we have kept growing through this adversity and the credit goes to the virtues they have fostered in us.
What do you do in your free time as self-care? How do you unwind?
Since I was a student, I have always been fascinated with exploring cultures through travel. An avid backpacker, I enjoy visiting different locations annually to assimilate with their culture and doing so refreshes me. When I am surrounded by different territories, I am taken back to the feelings of gratitude I had when I crossed Eurasia continents. I like being able to take a step back to appreciate new knowledge while maintaining a balance to enjoy what I have and welcome new experiences.
Let us know more about what you do!
Pearl FALCO is the only Ise Shima Based Pearl Jewellery in Singapore that prides itself on being familiar while also enjoys nurturing and incorporating the ideas of like-minded passionate to produce well-loved, classic jewellery pieces with a rich history and a gorgeous future.
You may find us featured on The Business Times, A Magazine and The Edge Singapore.
Connect with Pearl FALCO!
Are you a Fempreneur too?
Connect with us – we’d love to feature you! Say hi to us at [email protected] or reach out to us via our social media.
Read TLC x Fempreneur Series:
- Margaret Wu, For Beloved One
- Hong Choy Yin, Tots Society
- Pearline Foo, Spring Breeze Marketing
- Evangeline Leong, Kobe
- Maddy Barber, Madly Gems
- Ezza Yusof, 2morrow Official (Malaysia)
- Julie Yim, Lilin+Co (Malaysia)
- Nadia, HelloBello (Malaysia)
- Zairin Azman, UMMA (Malaysia)
The rest of the Fempreneur interviews can be found here.